About Vivian D. Nixon
Speaker, Writer, Sage
Vivian is the Writer in Residence of the Square One Project at Columbia University. In this role, Vivian contributes to the ongoing work of Square One and the Justice Lab. In addition to her own writing, Vivian provides leadership to the Racial Justice and Abolition Democracy (RJAD) Project, a joint initiative of Square One and the Institute for a Just Society; and will guide the continued development of Square One’s work on racial reckoning and the future of justice. Vivian comes to the Square One Project after 20 years as the Executive Director of College &
Community Fellowship (CCF), a nonprofit dedicated to helping women with criminal convictions
earn college degrees. As a formerly incarcerated woman and CCF program graduate, Vivian has been a leader in the movement to ensure that justice-involved women and their
families have a better future.
The authors’ stark descriptions of racial violence and “dehumanizing” conditions paint a grim picture of prison life and provide an insider’s perspective not found in the works of social scientists and criminologists. Their reform ideas include a quixotic but well-informed argument to abolish the punishment clause of the 13th Amendment (which allows for the exploitation of prison labor), and programs to reduce recidivism through literacy training (70% of incarcerated prisoners can only read at a fourth-grade level or below), increasing access to digital technologies during and after incarceration, and the earmarking of certain state jobs for ex-offenders.
March 17, 2022
In 1998 Vivian went to prison for three years. Twenty-three years later, the aftermath is revealed daily. In prison, Vivian rekindled a childhood love of learning and language. She wrote poetry, tutored adult learners, and read all the Black American authors whose books were in the prison library. Revising poems written behind prison walls provides a needed break from the intensity of the memoir. The poems draw wisdom from her experience with haunting precision.
Fall 2023 Goal!
Vivian's memoir has been many years in the making. Her goal is to publish in 2023. Snapshots from youth to middle-age describe life-altering disruptions through the filters of racism, inequity, and public policy. The pressure of striving to be respectable can push Black women to overachieve or the prison gates. In Vivian's story, both are true.